THE final plans for Southampton’s £15m Sea City Museum can today be exclusively unveiled.

The museum, which will reshape the city’s Civic Centre forever, is expected to attract 150,000 visitors a year.

The Daily Echo can reveal a dramatic cruise-liner inspired extension which will be the largest museum display area in Hampshire.

Known as “The Pavilion”, Southampton City Council hopes it will bring international blockbuster exhibitions to the city for the first time.

The old magistrates’ courts will be transformed into two permanent exhibitions, titled “Southampton’s Titanic Story” and “Gateway to the World”.

Southampton’s Titanic story will be told through the eyes of the crew and community to which they belonged.

“We have taken time to research other commemorative displays and museums to understand how we could take a tragic subject matter and make it engaging, informative and respectful,” Caroline Keppel-Palmer, from museum designers Urban Salon, said.

“Our focus is to focus on the human stories surrounding the disaster, rather than the event itself and we also focus on Southampton in 1912 and life in the merchant navy at the turn of the century.”

Work could begin as early as September and it would open in April 2012, on the 100th anniversary of the Titanic disaster.

Funding the project is now the biggest challenge for the council’s Tory bosses.

A bid for £4.6m was submitted to the Heritage Lottery Fund this week, but the council will have to raise the remaining £10m.

As previously reported, plans to sell an Alfred Munnings painting and Auguste Rodin sculpture have been put on hold until the summer.

A charity fundraising drive, named the Southampton Cultural Development Trust, will be launched in the New Year.

Councillor John Hannides, Cabinet member for culture and heritage, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for the city and our plans represent the most significant civic project in a generation.

“We clearly understand that a cost of £15m presents a us with a challenging target. The new trust will be given the task of seeking donations and fundraising.”

A planning application will be submitted in the next few weeks and a decision from the HLF is expected in April.

Entrance: The Grand Hall Visitors will enter the museum through a redesigned doorway on the west wing of the Civic Centre, opposite the BBC studios.

An audio-visual display in the Grand Hall will introduce them to the museum. They will also have access to a shop, café and guided tour of the clock tower.

Exhibition one: Gateway to the World This exhibition will recount Southampton’s role in the global story of emigration and immigration over the past 2,000 years.

Artefacts, images and individual accounts from the city’s archives will be on display, including a replica of the Bronze Age logboat discovered in the River Hamble.

Visitors will be introduced to the lives and times of ten individuals that have shaped Southampton, from a Mesolithic child to an 8th Century Hamwic sailor.

It will include personal stories of refugees, migrants, immigrants and passengers that have passed through the port.

The Family History Zone will allow them to learn about Southampton’s connection to their country of origin.

They will research the origin and distribution of their surname, using an up-to-date database of more than 800,000 UK surnames.

Exhibition two: Southampton’s Titanic Story Southampton’s Titanic story will be told through the eyes of the crew and community to which they belonged.

Daily Echo: Titanic events in Southampton Titanic departs Southampton

Out of the 898 crew, 699 lived or lodged in Southampton. More than three-quarters perished and about 550 of these had local address.

Six animated narrators will explain their jobs on board and how they lived their lives. They will represent groups of Southampton people, such as an Italian chef, a stoker or second-class maid, rather than specific individuals.

The second gallery will describe the ship itself and its centrepiece will be a specially commissioned, interactive cross-sectional model of Titanic.

Visitors will cross a raised gangway to enter Titanic, which will be represented by an image covering an entire wall.

They will then experience life onboard and explore a recreated cabin, boiler room, deck and Marconi Wireless room.

The disaster gallery will be darkened and the events of the sinking will be retold with original audio accounts from survivors.

The aftermath room will feature a large floor map of Edwardian Southampton marking the home addresses of every locally-based crew member who died.

It will also feature a “wall of names” listing every passenger and crew member, showing who was lost and who survived.

In the former 1930s courtroom visitors will hear the enquiry’s transcript played-out. In the final section they will learn about the lessons learned from the disaster and how it changed sea safety forever.

Special exhibitions gallery: The Pavilion Designed by Wilkinson Eyre Architects, The Pavilion will be a mixture of constituted stone and glass, designed to compliment the 77-year-old Civic Centre.

It will be built on vacant land next to the old courts and adjacent to the City Art Gallery. English Heritage has been consulted on the plans, but will not give their official response until the planning application is submitted.

In the first year, this gallery will host a temporary Titanic exhibition to commemorate the 2012 centenary.

In subsequent years it will deliver a rolling programme of touring and in-house arts and heritage displays.